While churches, as 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, are not allowed to endorse political candidates, it has long been recongnized that it is entirely appropriate for churches to engage in the political process around issues, with the civil rights movement being a classic example.
The United Church of Christ has repeatedly voiced its support of the right of same-sex couples to marry, most explicitly at our General Synod in 2005 with the resolution In Support of Equal Marriage Rights for All. It is important, however, to point out that General Synod speaks to our congregations, not for our congregations. Other denominations, such as the Episcopal Church and the Metropolitan Community Church, also have long histories of supporting equal rights for LGBT people. There are also strong equality movements within other mainline Protestant churches, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Reformed Church of America, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and many others.
Those of us who see the right to marry as a basic human right are, of course, disappointed by last Tuesday's ballot initiatives that have denied that right to same-sex couples. I am particularly disappointed by the passage California's Proposition 8, which is the first time that a state has revoked the rights of its citizens after those rights had already been recognized.
Despite the passage of the anti-gay ballot initiatives, I am encouraged by the exit polls, which show that those who favored eliminating the right to marriage were, overwhelmingly, aged 65 and older, while those who supported the right for all people to marry were overwhelmingly younger voters. Additionally, Proposition 8 passed by a smaller margin than did Proposition 22 (California's original anti-gay-marriage proposition that passed in 2000 and was overturned by the California Supreme Court). This gives me hope that, with the passage of only a short period of time, intolerance based on sexual orientation will no longer be socially acceptable and that these discriminatory ballot initiatives will be reversed.
While saddened by the states that have codified discrimination, I am pleased about the recent decision of the Connecticut State Supreme Court to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry and the decision of Connecticut's voters to reject attempts to amend their state constitution to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Flying rainbow flags at half-mast is a powerful symbol of sorrow over the discrimination that was written into law last Tuesday. I am always pleased to see churches that fly the rainbow flag as a visible symbol of the inclusion of all people in the church and I am hopeful that churches that have just started to fly the rainbow flag will continue to do so. While we mourn for a season, I look forward to the flags flying proudly at the top of their staves as churches continue speak out for justice and equality for all people.
In addition to my answer, I'd like to refer you to the pastoral letter from the UCC's Wider Church Ministries, the full-page ad that the UCC ran in three of California's largest gay community publications and an article about the ad in United Church News.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Proposition 8 and Rainbow Flags
This monring, I received an email from a reporter from The Town News, asking about my take on the recent anti-gay state constitutional amendments passed last Tuesday and about churches flying the rainbow flag at half-mast in response.
Here is my response to her question: